Author Philip Yancey grew up in church. But he experienced a lot of confusion over what he learned about God and what he experienced in life. He wrote a book that shatters a lot of our cherished ideals and the images we have grown up with. He called the book, The Jesus I Never Knew.
Of his book, Yancey said, “The Jesus I got to know in writing this book is very different from the Jesus I learned about in Sunday school. In some ways, He is more comforting; in some ways, more terrifying.” Of one thing Yancey is certain. The individual who really meets Jesus Christ will never be the same.
In the event that the name Philip Yancey is new to you, let me say that reading what he writes is like a breath of fresh air which comes to you in a polluted environment. Reading Yancey is like sitting down in an overstuffed chair with a friend in front of a fireplace, and listening to someone who trusts you so much that he can be completely vulnerable with you.
Yancey doesn’t come up with pre-programmed answers or quick-fix solutions. He has an openness, a candor, and an honesty which prompts you to look within your own heart and soul. How did Yancey rediscover Jesus?
His book was a partial outgrowth of a study he did with a small group focusing on the life of Jesus Christ. The group also used video clips of almost every film on the life of Christ which has ever been produced, but the Jesus we never knew, according to Yancey, is the one which Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote about, and by saturating himself in what they said, he was able to strip away the old varnish of images that many of us have grown up with.
Phil Yancey is a gifted individual who has given us something of great importance, yet the Jesus that he never knew is the same one whom believers have worshiped for centuries. I do know one thing: no matter what your relationship with Jesus Christ, or how well you know Him, after carefully reading what Yancey says, you will know Him better and love Him more dearly.
Knowing Jesus as He really is becomes complex and difficult because of the lives we live—not just the misconceptions and the wrong images we have grown up with. We get so busy that we have little time to take the four Gospels and to digest them. We “sample” portions of Scripture, usually in short sound bites which are easy to digest and tell us what we want—that He loves us, forgives us, and helps us to succeed.
Some years ago, I discovered an old hymn by Ian MacPherson which says it so well. The words go, “If I but knew Thee as Thou art,/ O Loveliness unknown,/ With what desire, O Lord, my heart would claim Thee for its own.” Another stanza goes, “With faith’s warm finger, through the veil,/ I seek to touch Thy hand;/ I feel the imprint of the nail/ And partly understand.” Then MacPherson voices the frustration which we sometimes feel as he said, “But, ah, my lonely spirit tires/ Of knowing Thee in part./ O Jesus, how my soul desires/ To see Thee as Thou art!”
Does your restless heart want to break through the spiritual gloom and the pain of living in a broken world to see Jesus as He really is? Yes, I recommend Yancey’s book. It will help you. But do what Phil Yancey has done. Saturate yourself in the Gospels. Read them in different versions. Ask the Lord to lift the blindness of prejudice and business and help you to see Him as He really is. Yancey is absolutely right. When you meet Him, you will never be the same. Never!
Resource Reading: Matthew 8
Text: They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” John 12:21
GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – June 6, 2017